Nadine Dorries, Minister for Mental Health, Suicide Prevention and Patient Safety, wrote on twitter: “A month ago, we changed the regulations to exempt us from requiring EU approval. We would still be waiting if we hadn’t. Thanks to #Brexit we can now move ahead swiftly and safely.”
Even if we were still a member of the EU, the UK regulator would have been able to take this decision on its own because EU law already allows it. This legislation took effect in the UK in 2012, long before Brexit was on the cards.
A UK government press release from 23 November 2020 spelt this out in terms. “If a suitable COVID-19 vaccine candidate, […] becomes available before the end of the transition period, EU legislation which we have implemented via Regulation 174 of the Human Medicines Regulations allows the MHRA to temporarily authorise the supply of a medicine or vaccine, based on public health need.”
The Head of the MHRA (Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency) said: “We have been able to authorise the supply of the vaccine using provisions under European law which exist until 1 January.”
See the full report from Channel 4 FactCheck.
Nadine Dorries was one among several British ministers who claimed that Britain could not have authorised the vaccine so quickly had we remained in the EU. This is misleading. Even if Britain had still been a member of the EU, the UK would have been able to authorise the vaccine because EU regulation already allows it.